By Larry Bodine
Over the past year, we've been following lawyer Andrew Ewalt's progress in establishing a presence in the blogosphere. He first posted to his blog on May 10, 2005, and has been learning the pros and cons of blogging in the intervening months. For this last installment in our yearlong series, there's a happy outcome to report. Andrew's blog has pulled in new clients!
It took determination, innovation and pluck, but finally, Ewalt reports, "I have received new business from the blog." As the Storrs, Connecticut, solo practitioner explains, "People contacted me because they searched for me online and found information on the blog," which is at http://andrewewaltslawblog.blogs.com. "Topics of my blog were along the lines of their research." The new clients included businesses that needed contracts reviewed, as well as estate planning clients who found Andrew while doing research for a friend of a family member.
Blawg.org reports that, as of June 1, 2006, there are close to 1,300 law-related blogs in 208 categories. Successful blogs have been launched by practices of all sizes, from megafirms like 480-lawyer Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton to small firms like J. Craig Williams's five-lawyer firm and Andrew's solo practice. It's the number one technology trend in business, and more and more lawyers are getting on board.
Does the effort justify the investment of time? Andrew thinks so: "It's been a worthwhile effort," he says.
Here are some of the steps that Andrew has taken to fine-tune his blog in the past months.
He incorporates visitors' search terms into the titles of his posts. Typepad, the blog application Andrew uses, allows bloggers to check their statistics on visitors, site traffic and search terms. So he tracks the terms that people input into search engines to get to his blog and writes those words into his titles to attract more traffic. His posts relating to "Medicare Part D" illustrate this savvy tactic.
He listens and acts on the advice of other bloggers. In one notable instance, there was an online debate about how long his tagline should be, with commenters saying both that it was too short and too long. He ultimately boiled it down to a midpoint of 22 words describing his practice specialties.
He posts photos of his offices. "It gives people a picture of what my Storrs and Manchester, Connecticut, offices look like, so they feel more comfortable when they arrive," he says. (At the Manchester office, Andrew is of counsel with a separate firm.) He also wanted to post pictures of his staff, but it turned out they are too camera-shy. Oh well, at least he asked them!
He co-markets with other professionals. "One of the people I work with is a funeral director and he markets pre-funding of funerals. If you're doing your will with me, I believe you ought to emphasize other aspects of planning that are not traditional." This resulted in the post, "Pre-Planning Your Funeral," which lays out reasons to consider pre-planning, including pre-funding.
He blogs on how a law firm should be run. "It ties into things I emphasize in my own practice, such as the timely returning of phone calls. Many attorneys are very poor at that." And he adds, "It's a way for me to comment about the practice of law without being critical of anyone." For example, he advises lawyers always to use a retention agreement and to bill by flat rate rather than by the hour.
So what is Andrew's final grade on a year in the blogging life? "It's one of those things that's not too difficult to do. I'm fairly technologically savvy so I didn't have any difficulty." As for the ongoing time involved, he has tried to post at least two to three times a week. "Some weeks I'll think about a lot of things to blog about. Sometimes I'll have just one post," he reports. Overall, though, he says, "Blogging has given me an opportunity to market with technology and to keep abreast of changes related to my law practice."